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USPSTF Refrains from Definitive Blood Pressure Screening Recommendation

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published an “I statement” regarding screening children and adolescents for high blood pressure. The panel concluded that, at this time, there is not enough research available for members to make a definitive determination for or against screening for this condition among these patients.

“Although high blood pressure is a serious health issue, there is not enough evidence on whether or not screening children and teens leads to better long-term health,” USPSTF member Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH, said in a statement. “Clinicians should use their best judgment about whether or not to screen youth who do not have signs or symptoms.”

About 10% of Americans age 12 to 19 years live with elevated blood pressure; one in 25 are hypertensive. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends everyone age 3 years and older undergo annual blood pressure checks, which the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) backed in 2018. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has issued similar screening guidelines.

Nevertheless, the USPSTF remains unmoved. Their “I statement” issued this month mirrors a similar draft recommendation on the subject released in April and aligns with the panel’s position dating to at least October 2013. Most recently, panelists scanned literature published between June 1, 2012, and Oct. 6, 2020, to find more information about the benefits of screening, effectiveness, accuracy, and harms, along with details about cardiovascular disease markers and hypertension.

“Children and teens who have high blood pressure are more likely to have it as adults,” USPSTF member Martha Kubik, PhD, RN, said in a statement. “But we need better evidence to help us understand whether lowering blood pressure in youth leads to better cardiovascular health.”

AAFP says it will review the USPSTF recommendation further before issuing an organizational opinion about it. For more information about this and related subjects, please read the latest issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports.